Richelieu Valery | Contributing Writer
The FIU men’s basketball team is on a quest to put out the flaming hot UAB Blazers on Saturday, Feb. 4 at Halton Arena in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Panthers are currently on a hot streak, having won their last four games and coming off a tight win against Charlotte, beating them 57-54.
UAB is coming off what some may call its most impressive win of the season, taking down No. 19 in the nation and No. 1 in Conference USA, the FAU Owls. The team’s win snapped the Owls’ 20-game winning streak as they flamed FAU for 86 points, a figure repeated from their last matchup.
This makes the Blazers the only team that has been able to score 80+ points against FAU.
UAB’s scorching offense is run by their backcourt duo of senior guard Jordan Walker and sophomore guard Eric Gaines. Walker and Gaines are an instant offense for the Blazers, averaging 23.3 and 13.2 points per game respectively. These two are the team’s category leaders in everything offense, leading the team in field goals made, assists, 3-pointers and free throws. This dynamic duo will have to be put in check for FIU to continue its winning streak.
The Blazers have been incinerating opponents’ defenses, averaging 82 PPG, which leads the conference. Their defense has also been solid, holding opponents to just 70 a game. This puts UAB at No. 2 in the conference with a win margin of 11.5.
Though UAB has just defeated a nationally-ranked team, they have yet to beat the Panthers this season. In the first matchup of the season, FIU was able to edge out UAB in an overtime thriller 90-87, making it just the third time an opponent was able to score 90+ on the Blazers this season.
In FIU’s last four games, they have held their opponents to an average of 67 PPG and have been causing havoc on ball handlers, swiping 35 steals. In the last game against UAB, the Panthers totaled 13 steals in the victory. The defense will have to be all in to stop the Blazers at home once again.
For UAB, their defense will be laser-focused on sophomore guard Denver Jones, who torched them for 29 points and was money from the charity stripe, going 11-of-11. During FIU’s four-game winning streak, Jones has been playing lights out, averaging 21.7 PPG. Jones leads FIU in scoring and leads the conference with his 19.4 PPG.
Jones isn’t the only Panther that leads the conference in a statistical category. Freshman guard Arturo Dean leads the conference in steals averaging 2.4 a game. In the last game against UAB, Dean led the team with four steals and also poured in 16 points.
This is a battle that can put the Panthers up 2-0 against the Blazers or have the Blazers even the season series.
Streaks are on the line, so who will come out on top and keep theirs alive?
You can catch this marquee matchup on ESPN+ at 4 p.m.